Lean Blog — 473: ’Picture Yourself a Leader’ – Interview with Elisabeth Swan on Her New Book

Author, podcaster, and consultant

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Joining us for Episode #473 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Elisabeth Swan, author of the new book Picture Yourself a Leader: Illustrated Micro-Lessons for Navigating Change. It’s currently the #1 new release in the Amazon TQM category…

Elisabeth has consulted in the business process performance industry for over 30 years. Her experience spans from helping local non-profits expand their reach to guiding Fortune 100 companies through Lean Transformations. She has trained and mentored thousands of people in improvement projects generating millions in savings. She has deep experience coaching problem solvers and facilitating leadership retreats, strategic planning sessions, process walks, and kaizen events.

Elisabeth is the Co-Designer and Lead Instructor for the Lean Six Sigma Leadership Course at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She is a co-founder, with Tracy ORourke, of the Just-in-Time Café and co-host of the Just-in-Time Café podcast. She co-authored, also with Tracy, The Problem Solver’s Toolkit: A Surprisingly Simple Guide to Your Lean Six Sigma Journey.

In today’s episode, we discuss her new book and the process for getting there, including the role of feedback, editing, and an editorial board as inputs to iteration and improvement.

Questions, Notes, and Highlights:

  • Tell us the story behind the book? Why this book? Why this format?
  • Sketching and drawing during the pandemic?
  • Why illustrate each chapter?
  • Asking people — “What have you figured out?” (PDSA) vs. “what do you know?”
  • Who is the book written for? Lean leadership or just good “leadership” influenced by C.I.??
  • Do some people have trouble picturing themselves a leader?
  • “The word leader can mean many things” — tell us more about that – how can everybody be a leader?
  • Author talk: Writing and Editing process – PDSA cycles? (Plan, Do, Study, Adjust)
  • Iterating, asking for honest feedback?
  • “The curse of knowledge?”
  • Iterating on the cover design?
  • “Heading off the head scratchers” — acronyms
  • “Perfecting Rework” — you invited me to contribute a “wisdom of the crowd” story here… 
  • W. Edwards Deming’s – American way of making toast… you burn it, I’ll scrape it

The podcast is sponsored by Stiles Associates, now in its 30th year of business. They are the go-to Lean recruiting firm serving the manufacturing, private equity, and healthcare industries. Learn more.

This podcast is part of the #LeanCommunicators network